Northwell Health inks deal with Google for cloud, AI technologies

Northwell Health will be tapping Google's cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to develop new predictive analytics capabilities around patient care and operations.

As part of this partnership, Northwell Health will leverage Google Cloud as its preferred cloud platform for infrastructure modernization and to build an interoperable data platform with AI and ML capabilities.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The health system, New York state’s largest healthcare provider, plans to leverage the tech giant's technology to enhance experiences in digital scheduling, automate payer interactions and provide intelligent summaries of medical information, executives said in a press release. This includes contextual recommendations that equip nurses and clinicians with decision-making support that goes beyond summarizing the information from different records. 

“Digital transformation is critical to our long-term goals of further advancing clinical excellence in our health system,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO, Northwell Health, in a statement. “This partnership will help us deliver personalized experiences by safely and privately harnessing customers’ data to enhance care, well-being and equity in care for our patients.”

Key to these efforts will be Google's cloud and AI technologies to advance digital and connected experiences and increase the efficiency of care, health system officials said. Leveraging Google's technology will also open up opportunities to better deliver equitable care in New York communities, executives said.

By using Google Cloud’s AI and ML capabilities, Northwell plans to develop predictive insights to help with capacity planning and scheduling and to identify risk indicators to help with early interventions.

"People want the same kind of seamless experiences and access to their healthcare that they have in other areas of their life, and healthcare providers need to meet these demands while also running the organization more efficiently,” said Joe Miles, managing director, global healthcare and life sciences solutions for Google Cloud, in a statement. 

Northwell Health executives stressed the health system's commitment to protecting the privacy and security of patient data. "Through the implementation of Google Cloud’s reliable infrastructure along with Northwell Health’s layers of security, privacy controls and processes, the access and use of patient data will be appropriately protected," executives said.

Northwell Health operates 21 hospitals, 850 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. The health system employs 80,000 employees—18,900 nurses and 4,900 employed doctors.

The new cloud partnership is the latest such deal between Google Cloud and a large provider. The tech company has been supporting Mayo Clinic’s digital innovation efforts since 2019 and two years ago positioned itself as the linchpin of Highmark Health’s new “Living Health” delivery model.

Last year, HCA Healthcare signed a multiyear strategic partnership with Google Cloud to use its healthcare data products—such as the Google Cloud Healthcare API and BigQuery—to support custom-built analytics tools.

Google is competing against Microsoft and Amazon Web Services to become the go-to cloud and analytics partner of the healthcare industry.

But questions have been raised about the use of patient data in these healthcare-tech partnerships. Google and its first health system partner, Ascension, faced widespread criticism back in 2019 after news broke about a patient data-sharing arrangement between the two organizations. The health system and the tech giant both faced significant blowback, including scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers, following news that Google was collecting personal health information on millions of Americans as part of a partnership with the health system.

Controversy swirled around one key aspect of the partnership: to pilot a search tool that pulls patient electronic health records into an interface to help clinicians more easily find useful information.

In February, Google announced that it was expanding the program and gave it a name: Care Studio. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has since signed on as the second major health system to pilot Google's clinical search tool.